Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network host a free dinner at the Ex-Services Club

The Walcha Ex-Services Club was the venue for a mental health saving drought dinner last Thursday evening - coincidently falling on RUOK day.

Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network provided the money for Walcha Council to provide a free two-course dinner for anyone in the community who wished to come along.

Some of those in attendance had been hand-feeding for five years and had no idea where next year's income was coming from.

Rural Adversity Mental Health Program Coordinator Kate Arndell introduced the evening by explaining that the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) has 19 coordinators based across regional, rural and remote NSW who inform, educate and connect individuals, communities and workplaces with appropriate services and programs.

"We link people to local mental health services and resources, we educate workplaces and communities about mental health and wellbeing, and we respond in times of natural disasters and severe adversity," she said.

This week Ms Arndell said she was delighted with the response to the informal event.

a very good night for all of us finding it very tough at the moment - it was great to get together and talk

attendee

"We had about 90 attend, which was great and it had a nice feel to it," she said.

"Of the 60 evaluations completed on the night, the large majority gave us a ten-out-of-ten for an enjoyable night, and the majority said the information presented was useful."

Mrs Arndell gave a brief presentation at the beginning of the evening about what things people could do to look after their mental health and how they could look out for others.

A significant factor in mental health is making sure you spend time in the company of others she said.

"If you are here tonight then you are probably already looking after yourself but look around the room and notice who you think should be here - but is not," she said.

"Perhaps you can check in with that person and maybe next time there is an event on you can offer to take them with you in your car."

nice to be thought of in these hard times - thank you

attendee

Mrs Arndell then shared the staggering fact that recent research says that loneliness is as detrimental to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

"That just astounds me because we all know how bad smoking is for you, and that's why staying socially connected is so important," she said.

"We strongly encourage people to get off the farm and connect with people - even if they don't feel like it.

"Simply being around, people can have such a positive impact on our mental health.

"It helps us to feel less isolated and know that we are not going through tough times alone."

While the occasion was to provide a night out for those doing it tough and provide information on where to go to for help and what to look out for, there was also an opportunity for people to register for a follow-up visit from the drought support team.

"We had 13 people indicate on the evaluation form that they would like the Drought Support Team to give them a call for a chat," Mrs Arndell said.

"This is a huge outcome for us as it means we potentially get to assist 13 people who may not have taken that step to ask for help otherwise."

thanks- it was great to break up the routine of the normal mundane drought

attendee

Mrs Arndell also commented on the night that reaching out to people was crucial and could possibly save a life.

"Even though it might feel awkward to ask someone if they are ok, it is so important we take a deep breath and do it," she said.

"We might be the only person asking and the power of asking that question could literally save a life.

"We lose eight people a day to suicide in Australia and six of those are males.

"We also know that the more remote we live the greater our risk of suicide.

"In times like this, asking someone you care about how they are going could be enough to get them help and potentially save their life.

"You don't have to be an expert or know exactly what to say but just letting them know you care and you want to help them is the most important thing."

I overheard people on my table talking about the type of help that is available and encouraging each other to seek assistance and also check in on friends and neighbours regularly - well done

Drought dinner attendee

The Drought Support Team is a free service and people can access support without a GP referral. Meetings can take place on farm, in a cafe or in a park - whatever suits.

Call 0477 322 851 or email HNELHD-DroughtSupport@health.nsw.gov.au

Additional Services:

Lifeline 13 11 14 - 24/7 confidential crisis support

NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 - 24/7 telephone assessment and referral service,

Alcohol & Drug Information Service 1800 250 015 - (24/7) Information, support, referral and counselling on drugs (legal and illegal) and alcohol and parents advice and assistance.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au -24/7 telephone support and counselling for anyone affected by suicide

Beyond Blue -1300 224 636 or www.beyondblue.org.au -24/7 mental health counselling, support and referral assistance

Men's Helpline - 1300 789 978 (24/7hrs) or www.mensline.org.au - information and referral services for men with family and relationship concerns

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 or www.kidshelpline.com.au - young people 5-25 years old